Today, April 7th, music lovers around the globe have united to honor Billie Holiday on what would have been her 100th birthday. And while Holiday’s indelible legacy can be interpreted and appreciated in many different ways, I trust we can all agree that she was one of the most uniquely gifted and influential vocalists ever, truly one of a kind.
Most of the songs Holiday performed throughout her three-decades long career were written and composed by others, including many of the heavyweight songwriters who defined the Great American Songbook. But Holiday didn’t simply sing other people’s songs. She fundamentally transformed them, enriched them, and made them her very own. The subtle power and soul-affirming depth inherent within her fragile, vulnerable, and endlessly emotive voice – combined with her incomparable phrasing, diction, and delivery – were all so unorthodox within the Tin Pan Alley conventions of the late 1920s and early 1930s, when her singing career began. Holiday once confessed that “if I’m going to sing like someone else, then I don’t need to sing at all.” Indeed, no one sounds like Lady Day. No one ever has, and no one ever will. Read more of this post